My first experience with choir came when I was quite young, just a 3rd grader. Our region of Ohio had an audition-only choir for youth grades 3-9 called Junior Choral Society. I so wish I had pictures, because we wore dark plaid skirts (the boys wore navy pants) with white shirts. There were matching plaid ties for the boys and these little snap on cross-over ties for the girls. We were dorky, but we sang great music and it was a lot of fun.
Fast forward to high school, where my tone-deaf music teacher sucked all the fun out of choir, so I only joined for two years, and then it was only because that way I wouldn't have a study hall 3 days per week. She was, however, oblivious and we got away with all kinds of things, like making Pop Tarts in a toaster in the bass section during rehearsal.
In college, things got more serious. I joined the Chorale and enjoyed singing Verdi's Requiem with a huge choir and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. I continued to sing all through college, and got into the upper level choir, Chamber Choir, my junior year. That year I went from singing Soprano (generally 2nd Soprano) to singing 2nd Alto, the lowest female part. It was a tough transition, and I was fully convinced I was truly a Soprano. I have since embraced my alto-ness. Those were some really great years. The picture at the top of this post is from our choir tour over spring break (yes, our dresses were unflattering). The joy of singing together and working on really challenging music and really GETTING it was amazing. It is so good for my brain to do things like that.
Also in college, I sang with the Women's World Music choir. We wore ethnic cloth with our choir dresses and sang amazing, loud, energetic, exciting music. One of the best feelings is when a song sort of takes over inside you, and your whole body just beams with excitement and joy. This happened most often with the loud, joyful music we sang in the women's choir. The energy of a song where you can let go and have fun is amazing.
After college, I realized how much singing in a choir meant to me. So I joined an area community choir. This was a much different experience than college choir, where many of the members had been vocal performance majors. This was a group of people who liked to sing. It didn't necessarily mean they were good at it, and many of them were older and found the semi-challenging music our director chose too difficult. It was still wonderful to sing with a group of people.
In recent years, choir hasn't been a part of my life. I've been busy, and the experiences I'd had were not that meaningful. But at church last Sunday, we sang a song I'd never heard before. I had to focus on the notes and use my sight reading skills. And my brain just came alive. It was that old feeling, a taste of what I felt in rehearsals in college, when we'd spent hours singing the same passage of Bach and my whole brain was dedicated to getting the notes and the rhythm and dynamics exactly right. I remembered again how important singing with a group of people is to me.
So I am dedicating myself to church choir. It's the level of commitment I can handle at the moment, and while the music is less challenging, it's a great way for me to ease back into singing in choir. Maybe someday I'll audition for a more elite choir, but for now, this is enough. I had my first rehearsal with them this morning, and it was so good to focus on something outside of me. I'll keep you updated with how it's going!